Prologue Magazine

Voices of Emancipation: Deposition of Dick Lewis Barnett

Winter 2005, Vol. 37, No. 4

Document 1
Deposition of Dick Lewis Barnett to a Special Examiner

May 17, 1911, Okmulgee, Oklahoma

Source: Civil War Pension File of Lewis Smith (alias Dick Lewis Barnett), Co. B, 77th U.S. Colored Infantry, and Co. D, 10th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, Record Group 15, Records of the Deparatment of Veterans Affairs, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

I am 65 years of age; my post office address is Okmulgee Okla. I am a farmer.

My full name is Dick Lewis Barnett. I am the applicant for pension on account of having served in Co. B. 77th U.S. Col Inf and Co. D. U.S. Col H Art under the name Lewis Smith which was the name I wore before the days of slavery were over. I am the identical person who served in the said companies under the name of Lewis Smith. I am the identical person who was named called and known as Dick Lewis Smith before the Civil War and during the Civil War and until I returned home after my military service.

I enlisted in April 1864 at the Turo Building New Orleans, La. In Co. B 77 U.S. Col. Inf. (La. Troops) and served with that company until the whole company was transferred to Co. D. 10th U.S.C. Heavy Artillery. We were transferred in October, 1865, and I served till my discharge Feb. 20, 1867, at Baton Rouge La. I enlisted as Lewis Smith and served as a "musicianer" and my duty was to beat a drum. A drummer and musicianer are the same things. My fifer was James Harrison; I camped right with my company all the time.

During all my service we were stationed at New Orleans and between Baton Rouge, La. and Frt. St. Philip, and at Camp Parapet.

I was born in Montgomery County, Ala. the child of Phillis Houston, slave of Sol Smith. When I was born my mother was known as Phillis Smith and I took the name of Smith too. I was called mostly Lewis Smith till after the war, although I was named Dick Lewis Smith—Dick was the brother of John Barnett whom I learned was my father after I got back from the war, when my mother told me that John Barnett was my father.

I was raised on Sol Smith's plantation near Montgomery Ala. And I stayed there till December 1862, when I went to Cedar Key Fla. 60 miles from Key West Fla. with Jacob Smith, my master's son and from there I went to New Orleans La. Christmas 1863, and the next February 1864 or March 1864 I enlisted in the U.S. service in Co. B. 77 Col. Inf. but I was not sworn in until April 1864. I had no Confederate service.

Lt. Marshall of Co. B. and D. got me to enlist.

My Colonel was Charles A. Hartwell. My Lt. Col. Was named Street, but he did not stay with us after our transfer because he said something about the army which Gen'l Butler proposed to court marshall him for, and we did not see him anymore.

I cannot name any majors nor any surgeons. I have forgotten the name of my captain in Co. B.

Q. Was it Baiston, Parker, Bicker, Fettis, Wingate, Gordale, or Allgourn.

Ans. I cannot say. Wingate was captain of Co. A.

My captain in Co. D. was Charles Bailey, and my lieutenant was named Dunham. Lt. Marshall was a different person.

Q. Name some of your comrades?

Ans. George Abbott, Moberly Mo. Peter Grant, Steven's Store Calaway Co. Mo. (both of whom I saw last February) Solomon Sylvester
John Robinson, Sgt.,   James Harrison
E. King Sgt., Thomas Brown
Ben Ballard    Ogees George (a Creole)
George Mitchell   Austin French
George Hatten   Curly Simmons.

I was a stranger to my comrades when I enlisted; after the service I saw none of them until last February when I called on Abbot and Grant to get their affidavits for use in my pension claim.

When I got home after the war, I was wearing the name of Lewis Smith, but I found that the negroes after freedom, were taking the names of their father like the white folks. So I asked my mother and she told me my father John Barnett, a white man, and I took up the name of Barnett.

Q. Give your personal description in service.

Ans. I was a mulatto; brown eyes, black year, 17 years of age, I think; and my height was very near 5 ft; place of birth was Montgomery Ala; and occupation was tending cattle and working about the house of my master, Sol Smith. I had an army discharge and I kept it for years and years; we kept it with other papers in a bureau drawer, and we kept the papers for so long, and so long that we took some of the papers out of Bureau and they got scattered and the army discharge got lost.

I hear read the list of comrades and I recall all of them except Nelson alias Foxwell. Some were Creoles — a great many were unable to talk English plainly.

Geo. Kiles, deceased, Montgomery Ala. was in Co. K. 77 U.S. and I knew him before service. James Harrison (fifer) was my bunk mate. During my service I was sunstruck, in first march about a month after I was sworn in, and I had a fever with sunstroke and did not get over it by the time I was transferred. After my enlistment my company was stationed at New Orleans La. for about 5 weeks, and then we marched to Camp Chalmet, 3 miles south of New Orleans for 4 days and then we went up the river to Camp Parapet where we stayed till our transfer to artillery. I was sick all the time at Parapet, La. and I was taken to a hospital but I escaped after a day and went back to my tent for so many men were dying. From Parapet we went to Fort St. Philip and stayed there 6 or 8 months — till about July 1866 when we were called to fight the rioters in New Orleans, and on our way up the river to New Orleans, La. the boat we were on sank, and Lt. Dunham took the wheel and ran the boat to shore and we jumped off and I fell in the water with my drum on me. After we got to New Orleans, our regiment lost a white major (name forgotten) through sickness, and a private named Henry Dupree died on account of eating too much ice cream. I was in no battle or engagement with the enemy but at Parapet the 11th Rhode Island Artillery got into a row with men in my regiment and several volleys were fired without anyone being hurt.

Soon after I enlisted it was proposed that my company go to Texas to fight Indians or Mexicans, but our people opposed it and we did not go.

I have only been married once. I married Eliza Henson Nov. 14, 1868, by a ceremony performed by Rev. Crowell (white Methodist preacher) near Mathews Station, Montgomery Co. Alabama, at Merrill Plantation in the presence of Randall Werder and James Bailey. My wife had never been married before; we had a marriage license recorded at Montgomery Ala. After my service, I resided in Montgomery Co. Ala. at Panther and Downing Ala. till I came here 6 years ago; and I worked for Columbus Baker, James Armstrong, Miss Helen Vincent on their plantations. I was known there by Wash Hood, Barbara Hood (now here), Dr. C.C. Baker, and Andy L. Barnett, Panther Ala; and Richard Barnett (my half brother) at Cecil Ala.

I was born July 22 1846. My full name is Dick Lewis Barnett. Q. You have stated that you were born on July 22, 1847? Ans. I can't say which is right. I have tried to give the best I can. I forget what age old Misses Smith told me I was when I used to go and see her. When I enlisted I did not know that I gave in my age at all; I was wanted as drummer by Gen Day, fifer, and he gave in my description; I know of no record or writing or witness who could testify or prove my age. After I got older and talked more to my mother about my age, I got the idea that I was born not later than July 22, 1847. When I stated today that was born in 1846, I did then think and still think that that was possibly the year of my birth.

Q. What was your physical condition in Aug. 1909 and ever since?

Ans. I was suffering from results of sunstrokes—I have had about 4 strokes since the one I had in the army. Dr. Thigpin, Montgomery Ala. examined me thoroughly 6 years ago and told me to keep out of the sun and that I should leave Alabama on account of my health, and it was on his advice I came here. I have also suffered from rheumatism ever since said August 1909, and ever since said date I have been able to perform only a few chores and I cannot do any part of an able bodied man's labor in the summer time. Being a farmer by occupation and not knowing any other trade or occupation, I am unable to earn a living by my labor. I have one son who works land and my wife works too. I have had no medical treatment here.

I waive my right to be present, represented by attorney, or notified on account of any further special examination of this my pension claim.

I have heard the above read. I understand the questions asked me.

Q. Did you enlist April 9, 1864 or April 25 65?

Ans. I can't tell now.

Q. by Attorney James: From what you know about the time you were born and what you figure therefrom, would you say that your exact age April 25, 1865 was 17 years, 9 months, 3 days.

Ans. Yes.
I have heard the above read. I understand the questions asked of me.
My answers are correctly recorded as written.


D.L. Barnett

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